This story is by Gabrielle Sanders and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The girl told Belinda that she wished her walls were pink. The walls had to stay white according to her parents, but pink was the best color. Pink was happy. Pink was fun. Pink was romantic. Pink was royal. Pink was everything the girl was not.
However, that was not how Belinda saw the girl. Belinda saw the girl when she was not shy or awkward. Belinda had only ever seen the girl in her natural context, within the safety of her ballerina decorated bedroom. In Belinda’s eyes, the girl was the best ballerina in the world. She could do much more than a simple pirouette twirl. She could dance to whatever music she wanted to, in the safety of her room.
The girl was alive. She was a princess. She wore her favorite clothes everyday, a baby pink tulle tutu. She could jump off of her bed and do summersaults. She could tell Belinda stories about school and dance class. But the most powerful thing about the girl was, she could open the lid of the box so that Belinda could pop up and do her short twirl to say, “Hello again, I am here to be with you.”
She always lit up to see Belinda pop out of the box, like it was magic. Belinda knew it was only gears and triggers, not magic. But magic was something the girl was good at believing in. There was magic in dancing, in music, and in the color pink.
Belinda heard all about magic from the fairy tales the girl told her. She liked stories about never growing up, fairies, princesses, and true love. “Being a ballerina is like being a magical fairy princess,” the girl told Belinda.
Every famous ballet had a beautiful story. Belinda worried that ballet stories were a bit melancholy for the girl. She did not get to wear pink tutus when she performed in them. Belinda thought sometimes, when the girl would open the box, “Why aren’t you wearing pink? Is today a less happy day?”
The music box was not a conducive environment for learning, so Belinda was not the most educated toy in the room. She did not get to converse with the other toys while she was shut. She only knew what the girl decided to share with her. The other toys saw the gradual change in the girl day by day, while Belinda was more and more often left shut up in the small pink music box, sheltered from the girl’s monstrous mother and absent father.
As the girl grew up, the days she wore her pink tutus grew less and less frequent. The days that she opened her music box became few and farther between. Within the small box though, Belinda could not tell time or age. She could only wait dutifully for the magical girl to open her box so she could say, “Hello again, I am here to be with you.” Only, when the box opened, the girl only stared at the mute ballerina in equal silence.
One day, quite unexpectedly, the girl opened the box, but she was not a little girl anymore. Her face had changed. Her eyes were tired and puffy. Black makeup smudged down her cheeks. Belinda knew that it was not a pink day, but all she could do was pop up and twirl around the same way she always did, “Hello again… I am here to be with you.”
The girl wept. She put her head down on her arms before Belinda and wept. Belinda stood as a tiny guardian above the girl. With all of her might and with all of her will, she could do nothing more.
Eventually, the girl went to sleep. She left the box open, which she had never done before. Belinda glanced around the room. There was no longer any pink in sight. It was dark. Unfamiliar shadows loomed everywhere. The other toys she once knew where gone. There were pictures on the walls, images she did not recognize. Everything seemed like a twisted or warped version of what she had known. The room did not feel safe anymore. The room felt hollow and sad.
Belinda looked to an old teddy bear, half shoved under the bed, but his eyes were dead. She looked across the room to an old doll house, but its windows were haunted. She looked for any other survivors that might have given her some clue as to what had happened to the magic, the pink, the girl, but everyone else was gone. The room was hollow and lonely, a box.
In the morning, the girl got up and left. Belinda was left open and she was able to see the room in the daylight. The teddy bear still looked dead, but the pictures on the walls seemed lively. No longer looming shadows, they were bright and colorful. She did not know what they meant or who they were of, but they were part of the girl, so they were important. Parts of the girl were illustrated in those bright pictures. She had added them to her sanctuary, so they must have been good things.
Later, when the girl came home, she brought someone new. Belinda was not very smart, but she did not like him. Somehow his presence made the teddy bear look even more dead. Belinda wanted to go back into her box, but she did not have that power. After he left, Belinda felt the same deadness as the girl cried again into her pillows.
He came back the next day, and the day after that, slowly killing everyone in the room. Then one day, he lingered. He looked around the room and saw the teddy bear. He laughed at the girl for still having one and tossed it aside. Then he got up and crossed the room to Belinda.
“Has this always been here?”
“Yeah.” The girl answered with a meekness that infuriated Belinda.
“She’s not creepy.” Belinda was filled with pride. “My mom got her for me when I was really little.”
He did not seem to care. “Oh, yeah. You used to be really good when you were a kid. Right?”
The girl curled her knees up to her chin on the bed, “Not really.”
When they came back the next day, he went right up to Belinda and slapped her box shut. Her thin delicate leg snapped. Painful rage surged through the tiny ballerina. He had broken her leg. Now, she would not be able to pop up when the girl opened the box next. “How dare he! How dare he!” She wept within the confines of her small box. She was broken. She could no longer dance her simple twirl to her simple song. She would be trapped in the box forever. She wept for what her life had become.
Belinda was left like that for ages. Days, months, years, she did not know. Over that time, her bitterness grew. She was bitter towards that leg breaker, for being so cruel. She was bitter towards the girl for changing herself and never really caring. She was bitter towards the other toys for not helping the girl when she was confined to the box. But worst of all, she was bitter towards herself and her own weakness. There was never anything Belinda could do. Popping up and simply being would never had been enough. How foolish she had been. She hated her pink tutu. She hated her pink thoughts and ideas. Pink was a useless foolish color.
The broken ballerina wallowed in her dark box of misery, until, the box was open. The girl, now fully a woman, smiled when she heard Belinda’s happy little song. Her smile was melancholy to see Belinda broken and laying amongst the gears and triggers. Belinda did not twirl or dance, but when she saw the girl all of her pain and bitterness ebbed away. “… Hello again. I am here to be with you.”
“Hello old friend.” The girl’s eyes sparkled with the memory of the pink magic.
“Mommy, can I see?” A smaller version of the girl jumped around and did summersaults in a little pink tulle tutu.
The girl gently lifted Belinda out of her box. The room was gray and aged. Belinda had never been out of her box before. “Here you go sweet heart. My mother gave her to me when I was your age.”
“Oh, no! She’s hurt!” The little one cradled Belinda compassionately in her pudgy hands. “We need to make her a special bed.”
The girl nodded, “You’re right. Here, let me see…” they got together a few ribbons and tiny faux flowers to make a little fairy princess nest in a velvet ring box for Belinda.
The box was smaller, pinker, and perfect for Belinda.
Angela Largent says
I loved this story. Using the opening and closing of a ballerina box was a logical way to show snapshots of a person growing up. And I loved the way it came full circle, with “the girl” having a daughter of her own. Very clever.
Ralph Askenazi says
I loved it. The way it shows the girl growing up.